Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: July 7, 2122

Last year, Leona and Horace tried to work out their problems between each other, but they weren’t able to get very much done. Neither one of them wanted to do this, and it was just too weird and stressful. After a few attempts, they decided that they would be better off sleeping on it, and trying again in the morning. Horace would have to wait an entire year for her to return to the timeline, but during that time, he would have no no memory of their expiation, so he just went about his business with the others. At midnight, upon Leona’s return, he walked all the way back to their old camp, and got some sleep in the dilapidated shelter next to hers.
Leona woke him up when it was almost lunchtime. They grabbed some weapons, and headed out to hunt. Having something to do while they were trying to talk should help them feel more comfortable. Again, though, neither one wanted to start off the discussion. Finally, Horace just had to suck it up and take the reigns. “I feel like I have this advantage over you that makes it unfair in any conversation or fight we might have with each other.”
Leona made this face like she was unimpressed with some feat he had just performed for her. “And what might that be?”
“I know you far better than you know me. I remember being married to you, and even though that was a different you, it was still you.” Then he started rambling, “it was still the same beautiful, kind, sassy Leona that we all know and love today. Not that I’m in love with you. I really am over that, don’t get me wrong. Serkan was my one and only. It’s just that, no matter what timeline you’re in, you’re still basically the same person, and I know that, and I know what buttons to push, and it gives me an advantage, like I said.” He sounded like an idiot.
“Well, if I’m always the same person whenever we enter a new timeline, then does the same go for you?”
“What?”
“Well, we’ve been through two timelines where you’re a psychotic murderer, so does that mean that’s what you are now?”
He didn’t really think this through. Apparently, having the night to prepare for it hadn’t helped at all. In fact, it may have made it worse. “Well, no, that’s different.”
“How so?”
“Well, in those two realities, I had the ability to go back in time and relive each day. Even when and once you knew this about me, you could never really grasp what that meant. Sure, you can imagine the fun I had, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, but it could be so much darker than that. It gives you the opportunity to test your curiosities. Have you ever wondered what it felt like to set someone on fire? The movies don’t do it justice, because it’s always either a stunt double with their clothes on fire, or computer graphics. To see a human’s skin boil, and to smell their burning flesh, that’s not something you could ever understand. Now I’m not saying everyone would try those kinds of things if they had the option, but you have to realize how easy it was for me and Ulinthra to feed off each other.
“Have you ever read or watched a story about two serial killers working together?” he continued. “How does that happen? First, how do they meet; then, how do they find out that the other one either does, or wants to, kill people? Well, usually it starts off slow. One will study the other’s reaction to violence on television. If one’s a male, the other will notice him experiencing an erection when a cheetah takes down a gazelle. They’ll start having hypothetical conversations about what they would do to Hitler if they ever met him. Then these hypotheticals start getting closer and closer to home: still-living celebrities, people they’re both aware of, people they both know personally. Then the conversations stop being so hypothetical, and more anecdotal. They’ll talk about their fantasies, or that one time they killed the neighbor’s cat. Eventually, just like with any two people in a relationship, they’ll figure out what they have in common. They’ll finally be able to talk to each other freely, and decide how they can work together to satisfy their urges.”
“That’s probably the most twisted thing I’ve ever heard anyone say,” Leone said to him. “That’s saying a lot, because I’ve met The Cleanser...and the original Rogue.” They had walked in a big circle, and were back at the beach, so they sat down to rest.
“It is, yes. I tell you of this so that you’ll know where I’m coming from when I tell you that Ulinthra and I, in that first timeline, we didn’t have to go through that. The first thing she did when we met was stab me in the throat, and let me watch her kill her father before I died. We both knew that we shared the rewind ability, and we both knew that neither of us could use our killings against each other, as long as we never did anything on Round Two. So if we said something weirder than ever before, it didn’t matter. We didn’t care what the other one thought, and we couldn’t be stopped. So when she proposed we set someone on fire, I just went along with it. If you think that’s bad, wait until you hear how we did it. Most arsonist killers use an accelerant, but we didn’t. We just held the flame on our victim’s arm until it caught on fire itself. It burned like a campfire, and he took longer to die. Yes, I can see your face, this was a terrible thing she roped me into doing, and it might be my biggest regret from that timeline.”
“Horace...”
“Honestly, my first thought once my daughter sent my mind back into my younger body was that I was free even from even the cosmic consequences of that day. Now, not even Ulinthra knew that that ever happened. I got so distracted by you and Mateo, so I didn’t keep that much of an eye on her, but I imagine she ultimately did it on her own. Which is why it was even better when the timeline reset again, and I spent decades having zero memory of it. Even when Nerakali forced those memories back on me, I still felt better, because now I knew even Ulinthra wouldn’t do it this time. I was so far removed from my past mistakes, which is something most people can’t enjoy.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“I’m telling you this because, even though you only remember that second reality, it was. Still. You. And you deserve my apology. When I explained to Mateo what my whole deal was; why I was trying to kill him, he said something to me that has since stuck. He said that you fell in love with a man who was not a killer. But that that man didn’t exist. He told me that you were never in love with me, but with a lie. Like I said, I have the rare opportunity to apologize for a past life. I proposed to you under false pretenses, and I’m sorry. You deserved better, which is why Mateo and I don’t hate each other any more. Once he said that to me, once he explained how wrong I was in my position, I realized that you being with him instead of me is the best possible outcome. I’m not evil in this reality after Nerakali blended my brain because of Serkan, but also because of you two. I just want you to know that.” He paused, not sure if he was truly done with this presentation. Fortunately, neither was she. “I’m glad you can’t remember the first timeline. It would taint your relationship with Mateo.”
She was taken aback. “Well, that’s not entirely true.”
What did she mean by that? “What do you mean?”
“I can remember that timeline. I remember being married to you.”
“What?”
“Nerakali gave me those memories, like she did with you. I remember everything. Horace, that version of me never knew what you were. She died in the car crash before she found out. A part of me...” She hesitated.
Horace chose not to say anything, worried any interruption in her thought process would cause her to hide the truth, and void this expiation they were on.
“A part of me,” she repeated, “feels this deep love for you. That’s why, even though the three of us are cool in this reality, I’ve avoided you when possible. When I look at you for long enough, I can see is how the starlit ocean danced in your eyes on that romantic night we spent in Ocean City.”
“When we coincidentally proposed to each other. My God, you’re telling the truth. You remember.”
“Of course I’m telling the truth.”
“Did you tell Mateo about this?”
“No.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“No.”
“Will you ever tell him?”
“No.”
“Would you have ever told me if we weren’t forced to do this expiation?”
“No.”
They reserved a few minutes for silence. At first they watched the ocean again together, then it reminded both of them of that night when they proposed, so they turned and stared into the jungle at different angles.
“Do you think that’s it?” Leona asked once the right amount of time had passed.
“Do I think we’ve completed the expiation? I dunno, it’s kind of vague. I mean, with the others, it was build a shelter, or teach a lesson. Those had pretty clear endgames. Could we ever really know if we’ve talked to each other enough?”
“No, I suppose not. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe this doesn’t end after three days. Maybe we’re meant to keep working on each other, which is how human relationships always work. There’s never a goal...at least there’s not supposed to be.”
“No, I suppose you’re right. Maybe all we have to do is prove that we’re willing to keep trying to improve ourselves.”
They looked around, both presumably having this thought that Arcadia was about to teleport in and tell them if they’re on the right track. She never showed up, so they just enjoyed another silence between them.
Horace broke the ice this time. “I do think that maybe that’s enough for today, though.”
She was keen on agreeing with this, “yes, I’m not ready to continue. I’m gonna go...find something to eat.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna go fish.” He stopped, not knowing what she had had in mind. “Unless you wanna fish instead. ‘Cause I could—”
“No,” Leona assured him, holding up her bow and quiver. “I got my bow. I want to try out what I learned from Vearden a few days ago.”
“Okay, cool.” He pretend for a second that they were normal people who could engage in playful banter, “don’t go too far, be careful.”
She didn’t respond as she walked away and disappeared behind the trees.
Horace took out the fishing line and headed for the beach. Before he got there, he dropped to knees, and then to his side. What he had just done had exhausted him far more than he had realized. He would take a nap first, and he would just do it right here.

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